Concerts in Chicago in January 2019

Kacey Musgraves, Buddy Guy and an indoor music festival kick off January's slate of Chicago concerts
Kacey Musgraves performed at the FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island during Farm Aid 30, September 19, 2015.
Photograph: Max Herman
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It's 2019 and it's time to make good on your New Year's resolution to see more live music at some of Chicago's best music venues. Local legend Buddy Guy is playing a string of shows at his South Loop blues club, country star Kacey Musgraves is headlining the Chicago Theatre and former Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus is coming back to Metro. If music festivals are your thing, there are a couple to choose from, including the city-spanning Tomorrow Never Knows and punk rock celebration Ian's Party. The weather outside may be a little bit frightful, but the tunes inside will be extra delightful—fill out your calendar with our guide to Chicago's best concerts in January.

RECOMMENDED: Our complete calendar of concerts in Chicago

Concerts in Chicago in January

Photograph: Ryan Bourque
Music, Folk, country and blues

Buddy Guy

icon-location-pin Buddy Guy's Legends, Loop
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January in Chicago is Buddy Guy season, when the legendary bluesman picks up his polka-dot guitar and takes the stage for a series of shows at the South Loop blues club that bears his name. The month-long residency takes place on Thursday through Sunday during January, pairing Guy with a different supporting act each night, including young Mississippi guitarist Kingfish and CTA bus driver Toronzo Cannon. Tickets to Guy's January residency aren't cheap, but seeing a blues icon perform in his hometown is the kind of experience that's worth splurging for.

CAVE
Photograph: Michael Vallera
Music, Rock and indie

CAVE + Wand + Cafe Racer

icon-location-pin Lincoln Hall, Sheffield & DePaul
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Returning after a five year absence, local psych rockers CAVE slide back into a motorick groove on the group's latest album Allways. While Cooper Crain and his band have all the trappings of a bonafide jam band (including the trippy projected visuals), CAVE's music seems more resolute than its noodling brethren—the floating flute solos and ricocheting guitar riffs nearly always sounds like they're working towards something, rather than simply filling space. Performing at the Tomorrow Never Knows music festival, CAVE is joined by experimental rockers (and Drag City labelmates) Wand and jangling local act Cafe Racer.

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Snail Mail
Photograph: Audrey Melton
Music, Rock and indie

Snail Mail

icon-location-pin Metro Chicago, Wrigleyville
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Predictably, 19-year-old indie-rock wunderkind Lindsey Jordan writes from the perspective of a teenager, but there's a clarity and confidence to her lyricism that transcends her age. The songs that populate her debut album, Lush, are relatable to anyone who grew up in a small town, yearned for new horizons and grappled with the looming transition into adulthood. Backed by stabbing guitars or tranquil riffs, Jordan captures the uncertainty and excitement of figuring out who you are and who you will be, one ballad at a time.

Music, Rap, hip-hop and R&B

Taylor Bennett + King Louie + Queen Key

icon-location-pin Metro Chicago, Wrigleyville
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Taylor Bennett has forged his own path in the music industry, forming his own independent label and developing an identity that doesn't explicitly lean on his genetic ties to one of hip-hop biggest artists. Still, it's difficult to listen to Bennett's recent Be Yourself EP without comparing his amiable inclusive brand of hip-hop to the music of his big brother Chance the Rapper. The Bennett clan (including Chance and their father Ken) will be in attendance at Taylor's birthday bash, which is presented as part of the Tomorrow Never Knows music festival and will feature performances from rappers King Louie and Queen Key. 

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David Bazan
Photograph: Courtesy the artist
Music, Rock and indie

David Bazan + Advance Base

icon-location-pin Sleeping Village, Avondale
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Singer-songwriter David Bazan disolved his mellow, semi-religious indie rock act Pedro the Lion in 2005, striking out on a solo career under his own name. After more than a decade, Bazan revived the band in 2017, with promises of a new record in the coming year. You can expect to hear a few songs from that album, aptly titled Phoenix, at this special solo performance during the Tomorrow Never Knows festival. Bazan is joined by Chicago-based keyboard balladeer Advance Base.

FACS
Photograph: Zoran Orlic
Music, Rock and indie

FACS + Dim

icon-location-pin Gman Tavern, Wrigleyville
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Formed from the remnants of Chicago experimental rockers Disappears, FACS carries on the group's genre-bending torch, creating dark, brooding music that draws on the taut rhythms of post-punk and the sonic disarray of avant-garde compositions. As part of the Tomorrow Never Knows festival, the act headlines two shows in the Top Note Theatre at Metro—a small, 100-person capacity performance space that is located above the venues main stage. Quasi-industrial local rockers Dim open each of the concerts.

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Frankie Knuckles
Courtesy of: Def Mix
Music, Dance and electronic

For Frankie: Ralphi Rosario + Abel Aguillera + Alan King

icon-location-pin Metro Chicago, Wrigleyville
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Ever since legendary DJ and producer Frankie Knuckles (better known at the "Godfather of House Music") left for the big dancefloor in the sky in 2014, Metro and Smartbar have thrown an annual party in his honor. This year's shindig, which benefits the Frankie Knuckles Foundations brings production duo Rosabel (Ralphi Rosario and Abel Aguillera) and Chosen Few DJ Alan King to the Metro stage, while Queen! residents Derrick Carter, Michael Serafini, Garrett David hold down the decks at Smartbar. For fans of house music, it's a fitting tribute to one of the genre's titans, in addition to being a great excuse to stay out late on a Sunday night.

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks
Photograph: James Rexroad
Music, Rock and indie

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks + Dehd

icon-location-pin Metro Chicago, Wrigleyville
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At this point, Malkmus has been recording with the Jicks for longer than he spent as part of Pavement, so it's not exactly a surprise that he has no interest in reuniting with his old band to celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2019. Instead, he's focusing on his recent album, Sparkle Hard, which presents another unpredictable set of songs that include laid-back rockers, a few extended jams and a synth-driven track with Auto-Tuned vocals. As usual, the lyrics are permeated with Malkmus's cheeky, hyper-literate sense of humor, exuding the confidence of a guy who can nonchalantly shrug at the prospect of another Pavement reunion paycheck.

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The Lemon Twigs
Photograph: Autumn de Wilde
Music, Rock and indie

The Lemon Twigs

icon-location-pin Metro Chicago, Wrigleyville
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Young Long Island duo the Lemon Twigs don't just look like they've stepped out of another era; the pair's conceptual new album Go to School harkens back to a time when sprawling rock operas outfitted with orchestral arrangements and whimsical narratives were in vogue. Thankfully, Brian and Michael D'Addario have the chops to compellingly deliver a collection of songs about a monkey that goes to school, unabashedly mining the classic rock tropes attributed to the Beatles, Big Star and the Beach Boys.  

Dawes
Photograph: Courtesy the artist
Music, Rock and indie

Dawes

icon-location-pin Riviera Theatre, Uptown
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Los Angeles folk rockers Dawes string together the types of vocal harmonies that you haven't really heard since the last time Crosby, Stills and Nash got along with one another. The group's latest album, Passwords, tackles the theme of reconciliation, confronting differences in relationships and politics with the clear-eyed (and sometimes cheesy) lyricism, tasteful sitar solos and melodic might of the great ’70s songwriters the quartet emulates. The group's stop at the Riviera is billed as "an evening with Dawes," so come prepared for an extra-lengthy set of tunes sans an opening act.

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Kacey Musgraves
Photograph: Kelly Christine Sutton
Music, Pop

Kacey Musgraves

icon-location-pin Chicago Theatre | Chicago, IL, Loop
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Hailing from Texas, singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves made a name for herself with twangy tunes about small-town living, romance and staying true to yourself. On Golden Hour, Musgraves frequently moves beyond country music, experimenting with bouncy disco arrangements and vocoder-aided vocal melodies that exhibit her usual pristine pop sensibilities. The catchy hooks and harmonies are infectious, but the most striking element of Musgraves' music is its raw emotional honesty.

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